Hundreds protest outside Netanyahus’ vacation spot in Golan Heights resort village

Some 200 people held a protest against the government’s judicial overhaul push on Monday afternoon at the Golan Heights resort village of Neve Ativ, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara are vacationing for the Sukkot holiday.

The couple had arrived in the early hours of Monday morning for the planned getaway, to head off any disruption or repeat of their stay at the same location in August. At the time, protests against the prime minister and subsequent road closures frustrated local residents. The Netanyahus had been set to arrive on Sunday for their vacation.

After news emerged of the couple’s overnight arrival, protesters announced that they would demonstrate at “a democracy sukkah set up opposite the Netanyahus’ suite at 4 p.m.,” referring to the traditional booths set up for the festival of Sukkot.

About 200 people from various activist organizations opposed to the overhaul showed up Monday afternoon.

Earlier, protest organizers accused Netanyahu’s staff of tearing down protest posters inside the community that had been prepared ahead of the visit.

They also said they were planning fresh rallies in Neve Ativ and would “pursue [the Netanyahus] everywhere.”

Activists are allowed into the moshav, in coordination with police and in accordance with a previous High Court of Justice ruling.

Protest organizers said in a statement Sunday that they were “ready for any scenario.”

“Let every elected official who takes part in the destruction of democracy know — the citizens of Israel, the fighters for democracy, will be there at any place and at any time to protest and warn against the destruction that you are leading. Israel will not be a dictatorship!” the statement said.

Last week, after finding out that the premier and his wife were planning to visit again, the moshav informed residents that a request had been sent to the couple asking them “to cancel the planned visit” to the local Panda Hotel. The Netanyahus appeared to have rebuffed that appeal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara vacation in the Golan Heights on August 11, 2023. (Benjamin Netanyahu/Twitter)

Their previous stay at the hotel drew hundreds of protesters who oppose the coalition’s controversial judicial overhaul plans to the normally quiet community. This in turn led police to heavily restrict movement in and out of Neve Ativ, to residents’ dismay.

Protesters opposed to the government’s highly contentious judicial overhaul bid, which would remove many of the High Court of Justice’s checks and balances on government power, have held sustained, large-scale demonstrations for nearly 10 months.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of people rallied nationwide against the overhaul for the 39th consecutive week.

Anti-overhaul demonstrations have also regularly targeted members of the government with protests and heckling outside their homes and throughout the country at public and private events.

Activists also pursued Netanyahu throughout his recent trip to the US, where he met with world leaders and spoke at the United Nations General Assembly.

Israeli-led protesters rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside UN Headquarters in New York City, September 22, 2023. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

Netanyahu’s hardline coalition passed the first major piece of legislation in the overhaul in July, barring the court from striking down cabinet or ministerial decisions and appointments based on the doctrine of reasonableness.

Last month, an unprecedented panel of all 15 justices presided over a highly charged session in response to petitions against the law. A decision is not expected for weeks or months.

Legislation that gives the coalition almost complete control of the Judicial Selection Committee, and thus of appointing Israel’s judges, passed its first reading in March and could be passed at short notice at any time.

Netanyahu has said recently he plans to change the makeup of the panel but will seek a compromise on the matter.

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